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Although Shaquille O’Neal only spent one season here in Boston (and only 37 regular season games), his impact on the team was hard to ignore. You could argue that his impact was negative, but the impact was there. For the first month of the season, all we heard from the local media was how great Shaq was. How perfect his personality is for the locker room (to counter KG’s intensity). How awesome it was having this giant interact with the people of Boston. And how good he was starting to look on the court.
Then he got hurt.
We started hearing stories about Shaq, and how he was still making appearance after appearance instead of committing to rehab for his Achilles injury, and then the same was said for the calf strain. I’m not going to sit here and say that was why he didn’t come back healthy, but it wasn’t a good look for the Big Shamrock.
I think its safe to say the Shaq experiment didn’t quite work out for the Boston Celtics, but did this past season work out for Shaq? I would say yes. Was this the ideal way for Shaq to retire? No. Was it better than failing to win a championship in Lebron’s last season in Cleveland? Absolutely. If there is one thing I know about Shaquille O’Neal, it is that he loves to be loved. He loves fame, he loves the spotlight, and he loves to entertain.
After all the success Shaq had in LA, there was one city that disliked him more than any other: Boston. So what does Shaq do? He signs with the Boston Celtics for the league minimum with hopes of taking down the new NBA powerhouse in Miami. He goes out as a player who tried to fight through an injury for one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. I think he’d take retiring as a Celtic over retiring as a Cavalier.
So now that Shaq is retired, he has fans all over the map. He has fans in Orlando, fans in LA, fans in Miami, fans in Phoenix, fans in Cleveland, and fans in Boston. Sure, a minority of each fan base may see through the fun-loving big man and hate him for how he carried himself most of his career. They will mention how he could have been the best player of all-time with a little extra work. They will point to his poor free throw shooting as an example of his sub par work ethic. But for the vast majority of basketball fans, he’ll go down as one of the biggest and baddest players to ever play the game, and truly the greatest off-court entertainer the NBA has ever had. So did his time in Boston hurt his legacy? Not anymore than his time in Cleveland did. And at least his time in Boston gave him a few million extra fans.
Shaq is gone now, and will be joining forces with the fine folks at TNT. Who could have predicted that move? He’ll be doing what he does best now, entertaining. Will you learn about the ins and outs of NBA basketball watching Kenny, Charles, and Shaq? Probably not, but you’ll watch. I know I will.